Local News

Nifong Faces More Serious Ethics Charges

Posted January 24, 2007

— The North Carolina State Bar Wednesday filed new and more serious ethics charges against Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong, accusing him of withholding DNA evidence and misrepresenting the truth to the judge in the Duke lacrosse case.

"It almost doesn't get any worse than lying to the judge in terms of ethical violations, but lying to the judge about information that suggests the defendant is innocent is even worse," University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill law professor Joe Kennedy said.

The State Bar revised the ethics complaint it filed in December, adding that Nifong allegedly withheld exculpatory evidence from defense attorneys and lied about it.

Exculpatory evidence is evidence that can negate a defendant's guilt.

Nifong was already scheduled to appear in a hearing for the first charge, which alleges he violated ethics codes for pretrial comments he made early in the case, when he received the amended complaint,

The State Bar cites findings from April 2006 that a second set of DNA tests found excluded all of the Duke University lacrosse players as potential contributors.

It also states that Nifong and Dr. Brian Meehan, the director of DNA Security, which conducted the tests, agreed only to report to defense attorneys positive DNA matches to certain pieces of evidence. The complaint also states that they agreed to knowingly omit DNA matches to other men found on the accuser.

The defense requested at least four different times for Nifong to hand over all the testing.
In court hearings, Nifong told defense attorneys and the judge presiding over the case that he had released all of the evidence that would potentially benefit the defense.

"According to the state bar, they concluded he lied to the court -- not made a mistake," Kennedy said. "Not said something that wasn't a reasonable interpretation of the facts -- the state bar concluded that Mike Nifong lied to the judge in this case."

Nifong did not hand over the evidence until October even though state law requires a prosecutor to hand over exculpatory information as quickly as possible.

"He had an obligation to turn over the information as soon as he had it," Kennedy said. "He also had an obligation not to engineer a report that excluded information."

Nifong, had no comment on the latest charges against him.

"I'll do what I've been doing. Whatever I'll say, I'll say in the courtroom," he said leaving Wednesday's hearing at the State Bar headquarters in Raleigh.

During that hearing, the district attorney was granted an extension to make his official response to the State Bar's complaint. (Read the hearing transcript or watch the hearing.)

The new deadline is Feb. 21 but could be extended, if needed.

Nifong's attorney, David Freedman, has said it is common for such extensions to be granted.

"I'll say anytime any charges are filed with the State Bar, they are all serious, so we want to make sure we handle them all properly," he said.

Nifong's May trial date was also postponed until June. If found guilty, he could be disbarred.

Legal observers, however, say Nifong could face other troubles. Judge Osmond Smith, who is presiding over the lacrosse case, could find Nifong in contempt.

The district attorney could also be removed from office if someone were to file a complaint with the senior resident Superior Court judge and he finds the complaint violent.

That judge, Orlando Hudson, told WRAL on Wednesday, however, that he has not received any complaints against Nifong.

Several defense attorneys in the lacrosse sexual assault case said that since Nifong has recused himself from the case, they have no comment about his legal issues.

Their clients, Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans, face first-degree sexual assault and kidnapping charges stemming from the accuser's allegations that she was assaulted by them at an off-campus party in March.

Last month, Nifong dropped rape charges against them after the accuser wavered in her account of key details in the case.

The three defendants have strongly proclaimed their innocence.

Two weeks ago, Nifong asked Attorney General Roy Cooper for a special prosecutor in the case.

According to Freedman, Nifong stepped down from the case because the pending ethics charges created a conflict of interest.

The state Attorney General's office is now reviewing the case.

This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • natebrew Feb 12, 2007

    told you guys it would happen by friday, http://www.wral.com/news/local/video/1199156/

  • Nibor Feb 3, 2007

    I love what his lawyer said in an earlier story. "We take care of our own". How about that? Like that is a big surprise. I wonder how many people are in jail because of his dishonesty? I think all DA's are the same. They would intentionally put an inoceint man it jail just for the win. They are supposed to be the good guys, until they are looking at you. It is happening all over this country. Inocent people going to jail because they can't afford to fight.

  • natebrew Jan 25, 2007

    Michael Peterson won't have a chance of getting out because of this; he was prosecuted by one of the best attorneys durham has ever had, Jim Hardin.

    I've also heard rumor from the Recall Nifong Vote Cheek campaign that the complaint that would need to be filed with judge Orlando Hudson in order to remove Nifong from office will be filed by this Friday.

  • SteeleMagnolia Jan 25, 2007

    Some of these posts imply that the young men are getting preferential treatment because their parents have money. I don't know how much money they have. I think it speaks volumes about the inconsistencies in our criminal justice system that others similarly charged have not had the resources to defend themselves. Even so, these young men are not skirting justice because of family money. This is a high profile case, made so by Mike Nifong himself. What a shame that that truth is a matter of convenience. Kudos to all who demanded further scrutiny and held Nifong accountable. He is a criminal, as is the accuser, and they should share a cell.

  • lisaids Jan 25, 2007

    fyi to pillarpost, "NO POSITIVE DNA MATCH FOUND" means exactly that, no hair or skin fibers what-so-ever on her person that belonged to any of the three men accused, this means not just her private parts but everywhere else on her body and clothing. Don't ya think that maybe everyone is under the assumption that all of these young men come from a wealthy background. How much do we really know about their families and the overall opinions that their filthy rich. I thought I read where one of the young men was at Duke on an athletic scholarship. And let me tell you another thing about being a parent, you will go to whatever extreme it takes to protect your children. Could it be that these families don't have a never-ending money pit and are probably placing all of their savings and homes on the ausction block to protect their kids, I know that my husband and I would along with our entire families.

  • joni11 Jan 25, 2007

    Wonder if Mike Peterson is keeping up with this???? It's a shame that something like this happening will possibly allow a true criminal to be set free, all because of one prosecutor's ego...It will be a good reason for anyone prosecuted under Liefong to have their case re-opened.

  • Lovinit Jan 25, 2007

    I live in Durham county and I think we tax payers deserve a refund for all of our tax dollars that have been wasted on this sham. Especially those of us who were smart enough to see Nifraud for the sleeze he is and didn't vote for him.

  • C6-YA Jan 25, 2007

    Hope Nifong's E&O insurance is paid up! I'm sure he can expect lawsuits from the Duke kids. I hope they take him to the cleaners!

  • dclark Jan 25, 2007

    Every person that has ever been tried and convicted by Nifong should have a retrial. He has proven to the people of Durham Co. he is a liar, and a perverter of justice. He is the example of the worst in our humanity, destroying others' lives to further his. He should be purged from our community, never again able to set foot in Durham Co. If the head is sick, so is the body, all of Durham's DA's should now be suspect. Wonder what vile, self-serving deeds we would uncover if we dug a little deeper......

  • oursilhouettes Jan 25, 2007

    I sure hope Nifong gets what's coming to him. From the moment I first heard the story on WRAL news, I knew that the accuser was lying, and Nifong was looking for a way to win the election, and he found one with this story without checking out the liability of the accuser. I hope the State Bar will also charge the accuser. She certainly can't get the facts correct, and they are hers. What's wrong with this picture?